Niagara Gazette

Lewiston

October 8, 2013

CWM legal fight funds draw a crowd

Niagara Gazette —

Lewiston Town Hall filled with concerned residents Monday as the town’s board gathered for its monthly work session.

To the crowd, many from the activist group Residents for Responsible Government, there was one thing on their minds. They needed to know whether the town board would once again set aside a $50,000 figure in its 2014 budget to fight the expansion of Chemical Waste Management, a disposal site for many harmful chemical compounds.

They got their wish, in a way, with the creation of an environmental protection fund, designed to cover the town’s agreed upon responsibility paying for the services of Cattaraugus County-based Gary Abraham. Even though none of them were allowed to address the board during the proceedings.

“The room was packed, no one was allowed to speak but $50,000 was still set aside for the environmental attorney,” Tim Henderson, a member of RRG’s board of directors, said after the meeting’s conclusion. “I’d call it an absolute victory for Lewiston and now its on to the county.”

Henderson is only partially correct, though. Because the town board has yet to approve its spending plan – it must do so before Nov. 20 – there is no money set aside for assisting in paying Abraham.

Action Monday merely created a line in its 2014 spending plans earmarked for paying the lawyer should Niagara County call upon the town to assist in the fight against CWM. No dollar amount was determined, as town action simply promised at least half the money the board allocates to its Attorney Contingency and Litigation budget line to the new fund, called the Environmental Protection Fund.

Each year, town finance manager Michael Johnson said, the town has supplied $100,000 to the contingency line in its spending plans, but rarely uses the high total. This year is no different, with only about $30,000 of the total spent through the first three quarters of the year.

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